Outside.In: Is CPM Costing Us?

Outside In:Is CPM Costing Us?-Jahna Lindsay-JonesOver dinner one night, my colleague and I were discussing how things were going with his new company. His business, once based on development of mobile rich-media applications for businesses, was increasingly becoming a means of helping marketers execute their mobile marketing campaigns. While not a marketer by discipline, he made a rather grand sweeping statement about, or rather, an accusation of, our industry.

On the whole, he said, marketers just market to themselves. They try to do what seems cool when branching into new platforms, devices or contacts. As a result, most of the campaigns lack any real understanding of how people use new platforms or devices. These campaigns show little understanding of how people or a brand's best prospects would prefer to interact and engage with the brand. As a byproduct of this lack of consumer insight and understanding, the campaign ideas are often trite and disjointed from other brand initiatives.

I believe his point of view is true in some circumstances, but it's not fair as an all-encompassing indictment of our industry. Rather, it really has less to do with a lack of consumer understanding and more to do with the methods of bringing an idea into execution. Thus, was my colleague's view more indicative of fundamental flaws in how we execute campaigns? Despite the wealth of opportunities of Web 2.0, interactive and digital platforms, are we shackled to old processes, team structures and means of valuation? And because of this, are we unable to bring truly great and breakthrough ideas to life?

Our industry is not without talented individuals with fingers firmly on the pulse. There are account planners, consumer context planners, experience designers, analytic researchers, you name it. We have ample access to data on consumer behavior, whether through primary research, secondary research or pre- and post-campaign performance metrics. There are more talented and creative minds in our industry than ever before. We have better access than ever to experts across mobile, social media, search and more. So, what's the problem?

Somehow, the vast majority of ideas and campaigns that use Web 2.0 and other new digital platforms either are not executed to their original vision, are regurgitated from other brands, or do not effectively integrate with other brand communication. Granted, there are a host of reasons for this, but I believe two of the largest issues are that we still operate under old agency or team models from years past, and we use the same valuations and buying models.

Agency and client team structures are still based on archaic models where creative, media, technology and platform experts all operate in silos and through a linear process (creative idea development leads to media strategy which leads to media buying, and so on). If digital and other new platforms are iterative and fluid, shouldn't more teams truly be integrated and the process less linear? Perhaps the most challenging obstacle we face is how we evaluate and secure placement for new ideas and media units. Part of the problem is that media experts are not fully integrated into the creative development process further upstream.

But the other challenge is that very often old buying and accountability models are still used. A media buyer will attempt to secure placement for a new idea or media unit by using cost-per-thousand currency models. Time and time again, these models basically use criteria for an apple to evaluate an orange. Why would you use CPM currency to purchase or secure a program in a social media environment where the potential of the experience is about interaction or engagement? Not only do these models entirely ignore how a person may interact with the brand and contact, they also reward scale versus any depth of experience.

While many agencies and marketers have made noticeable changes in their organizational structures, a change in mindset and expectations is still required for the vast majority of our industry. We need to be diligent about changing our old organizational structures and evaluation models. Obviously, change will take time and require an enormous amount of dedication and evangelization. And yet, it's not an unrealistic shift to expect.

Jahna Lindsay-Jones is a vice president and director at Denuo. (
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